Why do we need fiction? Why do books need to be printed on paper, copyrighted, read to the finish? Do we read to challenge our vision of the world or to confirm it? Has novel writing turned into a job like any other? In Where I’m Reading From, the novelist and critic Tim Parks ranges over decades of critical reading—from Leopardi, Dickens, and Chekhov, to Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence, and Thomas Bernhard, and on to contemporary work by Peter Stamm, Alice Munro, and many others—to upend our assumptions about literature and its purpose.
In thirty-seven interlocking essays, Where I’m Reading From examines the rise of the “international” novel and the disappearance of “national” literary styles; how market forces shape “serious” fiction; the unintended effects of translation; the growing stasis of literary criticism; and the problematic relationship between writers’ lives and their work. Through dazzling close readings and probing self-examination, Parks wonders whether writers—and readers—can escape the twin pressures of the new global system and the novel that has become its emblematic genre.